A new resident of San Jose, Diane Ortega has managed The Studio climbing gym on First and San Salvador since it opened earlier this year in the space formerly home to Wet Nightclub. Ortega first started climbing at age 19 while living in San Antonio, Texas where she grew up. In June 2005 she began working at Pipeworks, the Touchstone climbing gym in Sacramento, running their summer camp for kids. After working for the company for six years, Ortega expressed interest in advancing her career with Touchstone and was chosen to manage the new San Jose facility.
While getting to know San Jose, Ortega says she enjoys “anything that keeps you from getting stuck at a computer 24/7.”
Name:Name: Diane Ortega
Occupation: Manager of The Studio Climbing Gym
How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I’ve lived here since December 2011, and we’ve only been open the past three months. But I was doing work setting up the gym before it was open.
What do you like most about San Jose?
The weather. I moved from Sacramento and it’s so much hotter there. If I was in Sacramento now I would have already been there for some of their deadly heat waves, so I’m glad to be here.
What was the most challenging part of opening a new climbing gym?
I think getting the word out was probably the hardest part. We’ve done a lot through Facebook and we’re lucky that there was a [climbing] presence here through the bouldering gym that was in the Paseo [de San Antonio] a few years ago. And Touchstone has a really big name in the Bay Area for climbing. I don’t think it’s been difficult getting the word out among climbers, it’s introducing it to non-climbers that’s the hardest part.
What do you like most about your job?
There’s so many things, But I’d say interacting with people. Being able to chat with people and hear how their climbing is going, or hearing their suggestions about the gym.
Where are some of your favorite places to climb?
By far my favorite place is Bishop, specifically the Happy Boulders. A close second is Castle Rock; I really love Sandstone. And third and would be the first favorite if it wasn’t so far away: Joe’s Valley in Utah. I’ve been there just once because it’s so far.
How do you like to spend your free time when you’re not climbing?
I like to play Settlers of Catan… [laughs] and I like to run. I like hanging out with friends, drinking beer. I like gardening but I haven’t had a chance recently, even though I do have a backyard and could do it. Timing has been very hard with getting the gym started.
What are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
I really like Singlebarrel down the street from us, and I really like the farmer’s market at San Pedro Square. I don’t know a lot about San Jose still, unfortunately I don’t get out as much as I would like.
If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
The bike lanes on the streets. We need more! Trying to get around downtown is tricky and so many people ride on the sidewalk if they’re not lucky enough to have a bike lane, and it’s just frustrating sometimes.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
I would say Cherri from Anno Domini. She knows so many people and is plugged in so well to the neighborhood in general as well as the art scene and all things funky.